Asking for a little respect

EVERYDAY PEOPLE:  Blenheim couple Wayne Carey and Vicki Howe want people to stop staring and say ‘‘hello’’.
EVERYDAY PEOPLE: Blenheim couple Wayne Carey and Vicki Howe want people to stop staring and say ‘‘hello’’.

Being followed around the supermarket by children pointing and whispering behind her back is not uncommon for Blenheim woman Vicki Howe.

There are days when she doesn't even want to leave the house, because she knows she will have to deal with people's reactions.

Howe, 49, who is 120 centimetres tall, wants people to stop treating her like she has a contagious disease and realise that while she is shorter than the average person, she is just like anyone else.

"People think just because I'm short, I can't do anything," she said.

"The only difference between me and you is I can't reach high places. That's the only thing."

Children in supermarkets would follow her around from aisle to aisle, whispering when they saw her.

"I smile at them, but there are days I want to throw things at them," she said.

"It's very frustrating. I'm not poisonous, I don't have diseases."

Adults quickly look away, embarrassed to be caught staring.

"People have this perception that normal is just like them," she said.

"You just need to treat people for who they are, not what they are."

She said people in Blenheim seemed more accepting of her height than those in the Auckland suburb of Papakura, where she used to live, but children still stared and pointed.

Howe, who has a 19-year-old daughter with her ex-husband, was born with achondroplasia, a common cause of dwarfism. She inherited the gene from her father, who was also a little person. The gene skipped her daughter, who is about 170cm tall. The average adult height for people with achondroplasia is 131cm for men and 123cm for women.

Howe moved to Blenheim to be with her fiance Wayne Carey in March last year.

It was hard for her partner, who is 172cm tall, to see how people treated her, she said.

"When someone makes fun of me, it does get to him, it gets him down," she said.

Carey, 48, said when he first met Howe almost three years ago, he saw her as a normal woman with a "wicked" sense of humour.

Her charm and personality made it easy to fall in love with her, he said.

He got more frustrated with people staring than she did.

"Kids point and whisper, and parents don't know how to respond," he said.

"They don't see many people around of Vicki's size or height."

He wanted people to talk to Howe instead of stare at her.

"I say to people: ‘Her name's Vicki, why don't you say hello'," he said.

They acted differently after that, he said.

People would make conversation and treat Howe like a regular person and realise her height didn't define her.

"Once that barrier is down, it's just a normal conversation."

The Marlborough Express